This month in Rotary history -- Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland
A 1915 photo of R.W. Pentland, who was the first president of the British Association of Rotary Clubs. Photo from Rotary Images
In May 1914, Rotary clubs in Great Britain and Ireland met in London and agreed to form the British Association of Rotary Clubs. They elected R.W. Pentland as the first president of the organization, which was to have its own constitution. The next month, at that year’s Rotary convention in Houston, the International Association of Rotary Clubs recognized the British group as a legitimate extension of Rotary, and clubs in Britain agreed to affiliate with and pay fees to the international organization.
In his convention address, RI President Russell F. Greiner said: “Feeling that we were not familiar with local conditions in Great Britain and Ireland, I strongly favored the forming of an association of the clubs. . . . It has done splendid work in knitting into a closer union the Rotarians of the cities of the United Kingdom.”
Even with limited communication among international clubs during the World War I, the British association managed to keep the clubs in Great Britain, Ireland, and some mainland European communities connected. By 1921, more than 50 clubs were active in the region.
Other historic developments occurred at the 1922 RI Convention in Los Angeles. The International Association of Rotary Clubs changed its name to Rotary International, and a principle was established that allowed any country with 25 clubs to become a territorial unit with representation on the RI Board. At the convention, Great Britain requested and received territorial status as Rotary International – Association for Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI).
No other group in the world had asked for or received this standing when the territorial unit concept was repealed in 1927. Nevertheless, the rights, privileges, and powers of existing territories were forever protected, so RIBI has continued to function as an independent unit of Rotary International, subject to certain conditions under the RI Constitution.